When global warming really gets rolling, it will mean fewer clouds in the sky -- until, finally, there are no clouds at all anymore.
The result of a cloudless Earth: a blisteringly hot hellscape that will make the planet’s remaining species wish they were dead. See a brief epoch from 55 million years ago called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.
Digging into newly published academic research, Quanta magazine senior writer Natalie Wolchover has broken down what it will mean when “CO2-flooded air” becomes the new normal.
“[C]omputer simulations of clouds have begun to suggest that as the Earth warms, clouds become scarcer,” she writes. “With fewer white surfaces reflecting sunlight back to space, the Earth gets even warmer, leading to more cloud loss. This feedback loop causes warming to spiral out of control.”
In the models, clouds start to head for the exit en masse when CO2 in the atmosphere pokes above 1,200 parts per million. Wolchover points out that, “under ‘business-as-usual’ emissions scenarios,” we’ll reach that point in about 100 years.